Seeking free access for foreign journalists and Congressmen to Kashmir, six American lawmakers have written to Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, saying that the picture portrayed by India in the Valley is different from the information shared with them by their constituents.
The lawmakers’ letter to Shringla comes as the US on Thursday sought from India a “roadmap” to political and economic normalcy in Kashmir and immediate release of all political detainees.
Noting that journalists have extensively covered developments in Kashmir, acting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells had said the role of some of the international reporters has been particularly important, but journalists continue to face challenges in access while reporting due to the security restrictions.
“We believe true transparency can only be achieved when journalists and Members of Congress are allowed free access to the region. We encourage India to open Jammu and Kashmir to both domestic and foreign journalists, and other international visitors, in the interest of open media and increased communication,” the US Congressmen said in the letter.
In their letter dated October 24, US lawmakers David N Cicilline, Dina Titus, Chrissy Houlahan, Andy Levin, James P McGovern and Susan Wild said their questions were a follow-up to the briefing given to them by Shringla on October 16 about the situation in Kashmir.
“As was discussed during the meeting, many of our constituents have painted a much different picture of the situation than what you shared with us. They have raised concerns about the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, as well as suspended Internet and telecommunications access, arrests of local politicians and activists, and the imposition of a curfew,” the Congressmen said.
In the letter written two days after a Congressional hearing on the human rights situation in South Asia, the Congressmen asked a set of six specific questions to Shringla. During the briefing, the Ambassador had said that he is available to answer any of their questions on Kashmir.
“Has 100 per cent of landline service been restored inside Jammu and Kashmir, or are there any remaining outages? When will all mobile phone services be restored, including for those who use prepaid mobile phones? When will full Internet access be restored (not just access at kiosks),” they asked.
The letter also asked about the number of people detained under the Public Safety Act or other legal provisions since August 5 and asked Shringla to be as specific as possible. They also asked the Indian envoy to lay out the reasons for foreign journalists still not being allowed inside Jammu and Kashmir.